"And why is that passage so important to you?" my adversary responded. "I would like to think that one day I was serving a community where those in it would have the audacity to touch the hem of Jesus' garment," I replied.
With that he showed me out of his study and back into the sunlight. I felt as if I'd visited Miss Haversham in her mouldy and cobweb-ridden rags and a pang of sorrow touched me for it was not an enjoyable encounter, I felt as if I'd had tea with one of the Harry Potter story's Dementor (without the tea)!
Imaging the picture in our Gospel today. We have an important person with a need and an unimportant person who shouldn't even have been there (she was 'bleeding', she shouldn't have been near anyone) and, unlike many who call themselves Church today Jesus didn't put the reserved signs on the seats and fill the place with the 'important' people with their gold chains, fine clothes and titles whilst leaving the ordinary folk at the back of the church building (or even excluded totally). Jesus - sensing that He'd been touched and that 'power had gone out from Him' - asked who had touched Him and engaged with this woman.
Can you imaging the scene? Jesus is involved with this unclean and lowly woman rather than the dignitary. She didn't even have a wristband to get her into His presence or an invite. How can we build Church if we don't Kowtow to, and simper at, the thought of meeting the man who is surely the Major Royal of all time? And isn't He in our church buildings every day?
How I long to be able to utter the words, "Go in peace, your faith in Jesus, the Christ, has healed you," for in these words is the missio dei (God's mission in the world) fulfilled and made real around us.
Yesterday I was chatting to one of the Queen's representatives about the reading they had at an Armed Force's day service. They were captivated and enthusing about the words of the reading from Micah 6.6-8 from the Message. They loved the accessibility and the final words especially, "Don't take yourselves too seriously - take God seriously!"
The woman is sent off - healed and restored by her faith (and there's much we could say about that matter) - her life has been given back to her in every way possible by the encounter. Then we turn back to the dignitary and hear how his daughter has died. "Don't bother Him anymore. Let's go home," they said. But Jesus turns to them and tells the father of the child, "Don't be afraid. Just believe!"
Perfect love, we are told, casts out fear - and we've just seen a woman overcome her fear and reach out. So too must the synagogue ruler reach out and trust Jesus and look to the love of God. And so they go to the man's home and Jesus calls out, "Little girl, come!" (talitha koum) And she does. Jesus exhibits His power over life and death.
What stands before you today? Illness, troubles, stress, uncertainty over work, family, children and schooling, life and even Church itself?
Reach out and touch the hem of His garment today saying. "Lord, If you will it this situation will be changed and I, or those for who we pray, will be made whole. As we pray we do so to remind ourselves of the importance the situation or person has for us (for God already knows it before its on our lips) and God, who hears will answer our prayers (just not always in the way we desire, demand or request).
Live in the perfect love of God and approach Him without fear.
"Don't take yourselves too seriously - take God seriously!"
Almighty God, send down upon your Church the riches of your Spirit, and kindle in all who minister the gospel your countless gifts of grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
More later on the other passage - time has beaten me as I reflect and services beckon (catch you later for the final bits)
2 Samuel 1
After Saul died, David returned to Ziklag. He had won the battle over the Amalekites. He stayed in Ziklag for two days.
David sang a song of sadness about Saul and his son Jonathan. He ordered that it be taught to the people of Judah. It is a song that is played on a stringed instrument. It is written down in the Book of Jashar. David sang,
“Israel, a gazelle lies dead on your hills. Your mighty men have fallen. “Don’t announce it in Gath. Don’t tell it in the streets of Ashkelon. If you do, the daughters of the Philistines will be glad. The daughters of men who haven’t been circumcised will be joyful. “Mountains of Gilboa, may no dew or rain fall on you. May no showers fall on your hillside fields. The shield of the mighty king wasn’t respected there. The shield of Saul lies there. It isn’t rubbed with oil anymore. The bow of Jonathan didn’t turn back. The sword of Saul didn’t return without being satisfied. They spilled the blood of their enemies. They killed mighty men. “When they lived, Saul and Jonathan were loved and respected. When they died, they were not parted. They were faster than eagles. They were stronger than lions. “Daughters of Israel, mourn over Saul. He dressed you in the finest clothes. He decorated your clothes with ornaments of gold. “Your mighty men have fallen in battle. Jonathan lies dead on your hills. My brother Jonathan, I’m filled with sadness because of you. You were very special to me. Your love for me was wonderful. It was more wonderful than the love of women. “Israel’s mighty men have fallen. Their weapons of war are broken.”
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given to the churches in Macedonia. They have suffered a great deal. But in their suffering, their joy was more than full. Even though they were very poor, they gave very freely. I tell you that they gave as much as they could. In fact, they gave even more than they could. Completely on their own, they begged us for the chance to share in serving the Lord’s people in that way. They did more than we expected. First they gave themselves to the Lord. Then they gave themselves to us because that was what God wanted. Titus had already started collecting money from you. So we asked him to help you finish making your kind gift. You do well in everything else. You do well in faith and in speaking. You do well in knowledge and in complete commitment. And you do well in the love we have helped to start in you. So make sure that you also do well in the grace of giving to others.
I am not commanding you to do it. But I want to test you. I want to find out if you really love God. I want to compare your love with that of others. You know the grace shown by our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though he was rich, he became poor to help you. Because he became poor, you can become rich.
Here is my opinion about what is best for you in that matter. Last year you were the first to give. You were also the first to want to give. So finish the work. Then your desire to do it will be matched by your finishing it. Give on the basis of what you have. Do you really want to give? Then the gift is measured by what someone has. It is not measured by what they don’t have.
We don’t want others to have it easy at your expense. We want things to be equal. Right now you have plenty in order to take care of what they need. Then they will have plenty to take care of what you need. The goal is to even things out. It is written, “The one who gathered a lot didn’t have too much. And the one who gathered a little had enough.”
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee in a boat. It landed at the other side. There a large crowd gathered around him. Then a man named Jairus came. He was a synagogue leader. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He begged Jesus, “Please come. My little daughter is dying. Place your hands on her to heal her. Then she will live.” So Jesus went with him.
A large group of people followed. They crowded around him. A woman was there who had a sickness that made her bleed. It had lasted for 12 years. She had suffered a great deal, even though she had gone to many doctors. She had spent all the money she had. But she was getting worse, not better. Then she heard about Jesus. She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She thought, “I just need to touch his clothes. Then I will be healed.” Right away her bleeding stopped. She felt in her body that her suffering was over.
At once Jesus knew that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd. He asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people,” his disciples answered. “They are crowding against you. And you still ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around. He wanted to see who had touched him. Then the woman came and fell at his feet. She knew what had happened to her. She was shaking with fear. But she told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Dear woman, your faith has healed you. Go in peace. You are free from your suffering.”
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus. He was the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Jesus heard what they were saying. He told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”
He let only Peter, James, and John, the brother of James, follow him. They came to the home of the synagogue leader. There Jesus saw a lot of confusion. People were crying and sobbing loudly. He went inside. Then he said to them, “Why all this confusion and sobbing? The child is not dead. She is only sleeping.” But they laughed at him.
He made them all go outside. He took only the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him. And he went in where the child was. He took her by the hand. Then he said to her, “Talitha koum!” This means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” The girl was 12 years old. Right away she stood up and began to walk around. They were totally amazed at this. Jesus gave strict orders not to let anyone know what had happened. And he told them to give her something to eat.
Post Communion Prayer
Grant, O Lord, we beseech you, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by your governance, that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.